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Yatra without a pilgrimage

LK Advani is in the news again. And this time, for a decent reason. Embarking on his 38-day Jan Chetna Yatra from Bihar, Mr Advani plans to highlight the UPA government’s ‘failings’ in tackling corruption.

india Updated: Oct 12, 2011 22:49 IST

Lal Krishna Advani is in the news again. And this time, for a decent reason. Embarking on his 38-day Jan Chetna Yatra from Bihar, Mr Advani plans to highlight the UPA government’s ‘failings’ in tackling corruption.

Frankly, not much more needs to be highlighted, considering the UPA government itself has been regularly feeding itself to the bonfire. The civil society representatives gathered around the vocal figure of Anna Hazare are doing a good job of keeping the issue alive and kicking.

So why Mr Advani’s latest expedition? What he hopes is to turn emotions into votes, into a mandate against the central government and its outposts in the various states that go to the polls next year. In setting off on another roadshow — his sixth in 21 years — the 83-year-old BJP leader wants to encash the nation’s anti-corruption chips.

While on paper this sounds commendable, the yatra could, ironically, prove to be the digression that the BJP doesn’t want and the UPA has been clamouring for without much success for a while. If all things go according to plan, Mr Advani will be the political lightning rod for those tired of an India pummelled by corruption. That he didn’t spare his own party when he mentioned on Tuesday that "if there is graft in my party, I will weed it out too" suggests that he has the best of intentions. But the real question, of course, is whether Mr Advani is in any position to weed out graft from his own party, never mind elsewhere. If he had a strong opinion about the rampant corruption sloshing about in the BJP government in Karnataka, we certainly didn’t see much in evidence.

The truth about Mr Advani and his latest yatra lies elsewhere. Pardon the mixed metaphor, but ever the yatri and never the proverbial bride, it isn’t difficult to gauge that this is Mr Advani having his last shot at the post of prime minister. The BJP, on its part, has very valid reasons to be uncomfortable about his latest adventures.

If it clicks, the BJP could end up with a prime ministerial candidate most of its members don’t want. But if the yatra is a damp squib, the BJP’s image as a serious national Opposition party will be dented.

In a way, the BJP’s problem with Mr Advani is diametrically opposite to that of the Congress with Rahul Gandhi. Both parties are trying to usurp the anti-corruption momentum from ‘outsiders’ spearheaded by Mr Hazare. But while the Congress continues to be wary of thrusting Mr Gandhi into the electoral bathtub that hasn’t reached the right temperature lest the perennial ‘prime minister-in-waiting’ scalds himself, the BJP has been making a virtue out of not having a prime ministerial candidate in order to keep Mr Advani away from the helm of possibly happy affairs in the future. Because for the BJP, it’s about the destination, not the journey.